The battle for the control of your mind goes on relentlessly. Are you winning, or losing? This revealing article shows some basic steps which will bring success!
HAVE you ever done things you deeply regretted later? Have you said things you desperately wish you hadn't? Do you sometimes have thoughts you wish you could remove? Are there times when you find yourself confused and uncertain? Circumstances in which you feel inadequate? Let's face it. These things happen to most of us all too frequently. But does it have to be this way? Does God intend that we be wide open to, and unable to rid our minds of, wrong influences? Does He intend that our minds should be prey to all that causes agonizing hours of mental torment — and sometimes even permanent damage? The answer is NO! God doesn't intend these things — and He shows us that we can control our emotions, thoughts and actions. He reveals in the Bible how we can win the battle for our minds. Every action originates in the mind. We think; then we act. But we are often only vaguely aware of forces that influence our thinking. Eve was created with the ability to think. But when she first tested out this great power endowed on her by the Creator, she did not do so independently. Her thinking was influenced. The force which acted upon her mind — subtly and cunningly — was Satan. Most of us have laughed at comedian Flip Wilson's parody on the housewife with a tremendous urge for impulse buying. Her excuse was, "Well, the devil made me do it." Of course, the answer is intended as somewhat of a joke. But Satan's influence is no laughing matter! He is powerful, cunning and influential. The Apostle Paul called Satan "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2). He is broadcasting his wrong attitudes twenty-four hours a day. There is a spirit in man (see Job 32:8; I Cor. 2:10-12) which imparts the power of intellect to the human brain. Satan is able to communicate to humanity through this spirit. The spirit in each human being — unless we determine through God's Holy Spirit to jam or reject its impulses — is tuned in on the devil's wavelength. Satan is powerfully able to influence our minds. Satan is the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4); he fosters a way of life which we could, if we are not wary, unknowingly follow. Satan's way is the way of death. Unless we know how to fight that way, we shall lose the 15attle for life — eternal life! We are engaged in a literal life-and-death struggle. To win, it is vital that we recognize how great Satan's influence is, and understand the basic steps we must take to ensure victory. If you are losing the battle, or occasionally stumbling in the fight, these steps will provide an escape from Satan's influence.
A Way of Escape
It is not enough to eliminate the obvious sins in our lives. We must also actively resist the wrong influence of this society. God tells us: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." But how? The same passage answers: "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:7-8). We are in a spiritual battle requiring spiritual help. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but ... against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits, marginal rendering] in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day..." (Eph. 6:12-13). God is a spirit (John 4:24). He is able to provide the spiritual help we must have. We must seek help from Him. But just how does a person go about seeking God?
God Sets the Terms
God inspired Solomon to write: "Keep my The commandments, and live..." (Prov. 7:2). He also said: "The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light..." (Prov. 6:23). Most of us understand that God's law illuminates a way of life. We may even understand that it is for our good. But how many of us have realized that there is in this continuous battle for the control of our minds one commandment which is of greater importance than all others? A lawyer came to Jesus and asked: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matt. 22:36.) Christ immediately answered: "... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (verses 37, 38). Christ pointed out something that ought to have been so obvious, yet it wasn't! They had never grasped that one commandment is truly greater than all the others! What about us? We don't bow down to false gods. We don't rely on talismans, idols, icons, or images. We may never use profanity. We may not steal or cheat. Most of us keep God's Sabbath. We are, in general, a commandment-keeping people. But have some of us been living this way of life — keeping the commandments of God — yet actually failing in the greatest commandment of all? Why is the first commandment the greatest? Because it is the key to spiritual zeal, character development, the right control of the mind and the abundant life which Christ intends us to live. The source of all of these qualities is God. They are spiritual qualities, and we can attain them only with spiritual help from our Creator. The first commandment is the vital key to obtaining that help from God! God must have first place continuously. He will not permanently play second fiddle to anyone or anything. Christ emphasized this commandment when He said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness ..." (Matt. 6:33). The word "seek" is in the present continuous tense. It means that we must seek God's way not only at baptism, but throughout the entirety of our lives. God must remain in first place. But how can we ensure that we are really seeking God first?
The Basic Building Block — Time
If you wanted to build a brick wall, how could you guarantee it would be a good job? There is only one way — to lay each brick accurately, one at a time. The building material of life is time. Your life consists of just so much time. This is a basic ingredient that God has given each of us to build righteous character. This is where we must start in seeking God. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians about "redeeming [Greek: buying back) the time" (Eph. 5:16). But just how do we go about accomplishing this vital goal? We have to begin by realizing that the basic period of time revealed in the Bible is the day. Christ showed us this when He told His disciples to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11). God divided this basic unit of time into two separate parts: daytime and nighttime. First, what is the purpose of the daytime? Paul said that we Christians are "children of the day" (I Thess. 5:5). This, then, is the time when we are to be doing the job God has given each of us. This is the really important time!
The Use of Nighttime
The Bible shows that God started His time sequence at night (Gen. 1:5). Then why was the night given to man? The night is merely the time of preparation for the activity of the next day. The nighttime hours prepare us for part of the very purpose of man's existence — to enjoy the labor of his hand (see Eccl. 5:18-19). But isn't it interesting that much of the real activity time of the world takes place at night? So much of what is glamorous takes place under artificial lights. Many people seek entertainment at night, and they don't stop until fatigue overtakes them or their entertainment tastebuds are totally satiated. Only then do they take refuge in sleep. The next morning these people drowsily answer the sound of their alarm clocks, drag themselves out of their beds, shock themselves into wakefulness by drinking coffee, eat hurried breakfasts and reluctantly depart to work.
Start the Daytime Right!
But suppose we take a different approach. How would you like to face the daytime with a buoyant, happy, enthusiastic attitude; with a mind that is alert and ready for the challenges of a hard world — a world that is subtly trying to tear you and your family apart? Here's how it can be done: GET TO BED ON TIME! Most of us need from seven to nine hours of sleep. This is scientifically demonstrable. Too many are laboring under the false idea that they can get away with lack of sleep. Such people are greatly impairing their ability to function correctly in the daytime. In many cases bad sleeping habits have been formed over so many years that they are difficult to change. But with effort we can change for the better with beneficial and lasting results. Getting to bed about eight hours before we need to get up is generally the needed physical preparation for the day. Don't let the siren song of continuous entertainment, night after night, interfere with this necessary preparation. Now, what about spiritual preparation for the new day. Wouldn't the best way to begin the day (after the physical preparation of sufficient sleep during the night) be to spend time with the One who gives you every breath of air you draw — the Creator who bestows upon you the time you are about to use? If we are going to seek God first, we must do so on a daily basis. Paul emphasizes this key principle. saying that the inward man must be "renewed day by day" (II Cor. 4:16). We must spend time with God each day so that we a re properly prepared for the battle of the day ahead.
How Much Time?
What would a young man interested in a young girl think if every time he called to see her, she were. to say, "I'd love to spend time with you, but I have things to do"? How long would he continue calling? Wouldn't he reason: "If all those things are so very important, she can just continue to do them without me"? When young people begin developing an interest in one another. they don't have to spend time together. It isn't something that requires legislation. The y like spending time together: they make excuses to do so. They just keep "running into" each other! This is the way it works on the physical plane. Have you noticed that you always manage to fit into your busy schedule the many "necessary" things and the things you like to do? But on the other hand, there are other things in life that you feel would be a "nice idea" but that you somehow never do. But when it comes to spending time with the Eternal Creator God, oftentimes five or ten minutes here and there is all we feel we need. So let's be a little more specific. How much time? We don't want to become legalistic or pharisaical in our approach — that in itself can become a pitfall. Perhaps a physical example will get the point across. Do you normally find time to eat physical food, to take in physical nourishment? Do you not normally manage enough time for three meals a day — around a half hour to eat each meal? So we spend something like one and a half hours each day eating food; that's how long it takes us to nourish our bodies physically. But is our spiritual condition of any less importance? Can we spend considerably less time nourishing ourselves spiritually and get away with it in the long run? If you began to cut down your physical intake of food, or began to eat low-quality food, you would soon pay a penalty. Your resistance level would fall, and you would have less stamina and lack energy. In the same way, we weaken ourselves spiritually if we consistently reduce our spiritual nourishment.
But somehow we don't look at it that way. We try to kid ourselves that we don't have to spend that much time with God — we tell ourselves that we don't have that much time. So often the physical crowds out the spiritual. Jesus Christ talked about a plot of land that could have borne fruit, but instead there were thorns and thistles which "choked" the Word. What were the thistles? "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22). Jesus Christ said that the care and the concern for the physical things of this life can prevent us from being fruitful! Luke 10:40 states that "Martha was cumbered about [with] much serving," whereas Mary chose to listen to the truths Christ was expounding. Martha "came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Too many of us are spiritual Marthas! Certainly there is nothing wrong with serving — nothing wrong with performing physical tasks. But if we allow God to be muscled out by the pressure of these physical activities, we are starting down the wrong path. Be honest with yourself! Have you really been spending enough time with God?
What Kind of Time?
Is time all that it takes? Just time, so long as it's enough? Let's suppose you have been spending an hour or more every day in prayer and Bible study. Probably several thousands who read this magazine have. But does even this fulfill what God requires? Let's begin to find the answer by understanding a physical type that God gave to ancient Israel. Listen to God's instruction regarding the Passover lamb: "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year..." (Ex. 12:5). It had to be perfect. Only the very best was to be offered for the Passover. In Malachi 1:8 God warned Israel that He does not accept inferior sacrifices. This is what God demanded for their good. With this principle in mind, what kind of time should we give to God? Shouldn't it likewise be our best? Shouldn't it be our prime time? Advertisers crave prime time on radio and television. The cost of this coveted time is astronomical; it's the most valuable time there is on this type of media. Our Creator doesn't want us to give Him merely enough time; He wants prime time. Again, for our good! But so often we give God the dregs, the crumbs, the leftovers: We are fatigued, tired, jaded, enervated; going through a ceremony, a ritual, instead of really drawing close to God. We try to give Him time that we simply would not offer to a fellow human being.
A Program for Seeking God
David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). When did he seek God? "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word" (Ps. 119:147). He also said: "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up" (Ps. 5:3). David was excited about the opportunity to seek God, and he rose early to do so. He anticipated the new day as another wonderful opportunity to go before his Creator! David knew when prime time is. He had discovered a living law. He said: "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" (Ps. 63:1). David's son Solomon personified wisdom in Proverbs 8:17. "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." If you were to take a concordance and go through the Bible, you would discover that the great servants of God sought Him early. They used the prime time immediately after waking for prayer to their God and the study of His Word! Here is a simple plan for giving God prime time every day. Determine when you must walk out of the house in the morning, then count back two hours, and that's the time you need to get out of bed. Not the time to wake up, but the time to be out of bed! Then, once you are out of bed, take a shower or bath to get the sleep out of your system. Next, spend a half hour in Bible study followed by a half hour of prayer, or vice versa. You can do it in any manner you wish. Since most people have read books all of their lives, it is easier for them to read than it is to pray. Reading is something physical, while prayer is sometimes a difficult spiritual activity. Studying before praying gives you a chance to get in gear. And you are letting God teach you, enabling you to talk to Him more effectively. Bible study prepares your mind for prayer. You may find it the easiest way to get started on this program. Your study time should be preceded by a brief prayer asking God to give you understanding of the Bible. Pray as David did: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18). If you have never consistently prayed and studied before, you will be amazed by the spiritual help you will begin to receive. And if you have been praying and studying, but haven't been giving God the very best of your time, you will begin to derive the added impetus and interest you need to begin com bating Satan's influence on your mind through his use of the society around you. You might find difficulty in persevering with prayer at first, but don't be discouraged. Stay with it, and it will become increasingly easier as a right habit begins to form. It will payoff in big spiritual dividends!
Set Your Mind for Battle
Do you realize that your mind is most impressionable in the morning? Information put into the mind early in the morning is usually more indelibly printed than at any other time of the day. If you have ever walked on a beach after a beach-cleaning machine has smoothed out the sand, you have seen your footprints deeply imprinted in those beautiful ribbons of sand. Yet, if you were to go to that same beach later in the day, you wouldn't leave the same quality of impression. Hundreds of pairs of feet have trodden down the sand. No one track is clear. Sleep smooths out our mental landscape like a machine cleans the beach. Thoughts impressed into the mind early are deeply imprinted. If we put God's thoughts into our minds by studying His Word first, our entire spiritual resistance level will rise. We will automatically be better equipped to face the battles and temptations of the day ahead. Of course, you will still have problems — but now you will be making measurable headway. Studying the Bible at the beginning of each morning, in the very prime hours of the day, will arm your mind for the battle you will face.
However, this isn't to say that there will never be variations to your morning schedule. Any schedule must be flexible if it is to succeed. There have to be exceptions, days when you can't follow the program exactly. But they ought to be exceptions — not the rule. Of course, some of you will be reluctant to try any "new" schedule if you haven't already been doing these things. Initially, some of you won't like the idea. But as the Guinness stout ale ad says: "In so many cases we don't like it because we've never tried it."
The Battle Is On
Satan's wavelength is broadcasting twenty-four hours a day. He never ceases his assault on the human mind. Whether you are ready to fight or not, Satan is already throwing all of his forces into the fray. He isn't waiting for you to declare war! You can't afford to delay marshaling for the battle. You need to begin immediately to arm yourself (see Eph. 6:10-18). If you aren't prepared to withstand Satan's assault, you are losing the battle already! The proper use of your time is the key to winning. Don't be too busy to pray or to study God's Word. Don't be among the many who will stand before their Maker unprepared, embarrassed, ashamed — wishing they could live their lives over again — so they could rearrange their "busy" schedules to include God. But you can begin now to put your plan of attack into action. Be sure you are able to say with the Apostle Paul: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Tim. 4:7). It's your eternity that is at stake!